Russians Are Hacking US Casino Companies to Fund War in Ukraine, Says UK Cyber Expert

  • The number of cyberattacks has been on the increase over the past few weeks following a lull
  • Attacks are becoming more creative and aggressive, with tribal casinos often targeted
  • Hackers have even accessed cybersecurity insurance policies to see how much tribes could pay
  • Casino companies face a lot of unique cybersecurity challenges that executives need to consider
Hacker in front of Russian flag
A UK cyber expert believes that Russian hackers are targeting businesses like US casino companies to help fund the war in Ukraine. [Image:]

A worrying increase

A UK cyber expert believes that Russian-state hackers are behind a recent increase in cyber attacks around the world, with US casinos often taking much of the damage. David Rees, executive director, cyber at Howden Insurance Brokers, made the comments at the Cyber Security Summit on Thursday.

helping to fund Russia’s war effort in Ukraine

The total number of cyberattacks dropped off last year and in the early weeks of 2023. They are now on the rise once more, however, and Rees believe that the resulting ransom money is helping to fund Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. 

During his talk, Rees emphasized that he does not claim every ransomware attack originates in Russia, but that a lot of them do. The cyber expert highlighted that Russia appears to need more funds now that it is one year on from the beginning of its invasion of Ukraine. He blamed this for the increase in hacking attacks originating from the country.

Issues for US tribes

Kimi Gordy is a partner in the BakerHostetler law firm focused partly on cybersecurity breach response. She confirmed that “ransomware has gotten crazy in the last three weeks” and that these attacks have been more aggressive and creative.

While hackers go after a wide range of industries, tribal casinos in the US are a common target. In recent years, attacks on these operations have led to property closures and substantial ransomware payouts. Hackers are not just seeking a quick windfall from tribal casinos, but also targeting other organizations in these communities, such as hospitals, government, and schools. Hackers have even accessed tribal cyber insurance policies to see how much coverage they have in the event of an attack.

In a typical ransomware attack, hackers lock down a system and encrypt all of the data. They then demand payment in return for giving back the data.

Much for casinos to consider

Rees wasn’t the only one commenting on the issue this week. A former spy for the US military warned that casino-surveillance executives will have a lot of cyber attacks to deal with in the coming years.

Speaking at the World Game Protection Conference at the Tropicana Las Vegas, Vaillance Group CEO Shawnee Delaney, formerly a Defense Intelligence Agency clandestine officer, detailed some of the vulnerabilities that are completely unique to the casino sector.

at least half of all US gambling companies have experienced some sort of data breach

He mentioned that casinos rely on various third-party services and hackers often successfully access casino networks through these service providers. Delaney estimates that at least half of all US gambling companies have experienced some sort of data breach as a result of a third-party issue.

Delaney also has concerns that cameras, mobile hotel check-ins, and trackable casino chips all utilize internet connections. He noted one instance in which a casino suffered a hack through its fish tank. The thermometer in the tank was connected to the internet through which the hackers gained access to the casino’s network.

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